Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Land

Zimbabwe may not want their white farmers, but Nigeria obviously doesn't feel the same way. Reuters reports that 15 Zimbabwean farmers have each been given 1000 hectares of land in the central Kwara State. They have reached a deal with the government to take separate 25-year leases on fertile land, and will farm maize, rice, cassava, dairy cattle, poultry and vegetables. "Nigerian leaders have promised that their new guests will be able to make a good living and that the development that their large-scale farms will bring to rural Nigeria's peasant economy will help the population as a whole."

Nigeria is not the only African country wanting to woo Zimbabwean farmers as allafrica.com reports. Zim farmers have gone to Mozambique and Zambia where they've been offered huge tracts of land. At a meeting hosted by the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce in November, Acting Malawian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bill Itaye, made a passionate appeal for Zimbabwean farmers to invest in his country. Itaye said there were vast opportunities for interested Zimbabwean farmers and business people. Also speaking at the meeting, Mozambican Consul-General, Americo Chicolete, made a similar appeal. Speaking in Portuguese, he said: "You mean a lot to Mozambique, we have rich soils for agriculture. There are no land problems in the country as we nationalised it soon after independence and it has remained state land. There are no fears of land invasions and there is security in the country."

While I don't think it is helpful or even relevant to compare South Africa to Zimbabwe, I do however feel that South Africa is not doing enough to address the issue of land redistribution, and in some cases when land has been given to black farmers, appropriate training and back-up support has been lacking, and this has lead to failure. The UK Telegraph reports under the sensationalist headline "Shanty town battle sparks land grab fears for S African farmers" that land ownership is almost unchanged from the apartheid era, with 85 per cent of commercial farmland in white hands. "Government aims to hand over 30 per cent to blacks, but the date for achieving this target has been put back until 2015. Only three per cent of white-owned land has been redistributed since apartheid ended in 1994."

The Telegraph article also mentions what it calls the biggest land invasion in South Africa to date. Apparently 40 000 squatters have settled on a farm in Modderklip, near Benoni, belonging to one Abraham Duvenage. Although Duvenage has been through all the legal channels he has been unable to either sell his land to government or evict the squatters. Now what makes this story really interesting and ironic, is that the squatters are not even South African, they come from neighbouring Mozambique. The informal settlement is known as Cahora, after Lake Cahora Bassa in Mozambique.

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